I remember when "conservative" could be used to refer to a point of view; in my mind that was its primary meaning as applied to anything, not limited to politics or religion. By this definition, a conservative was one who resisted unnecessary change: "if it ain't broke, don't fix it; if you have to fix it, be economical with both your time and resources, but do the job so that you don't have to do it over."
I embrace that definition of conservative. There may be at least a dozen people in the country who think that is what it means. For the rest, conservative refers to a body of political or theological dogma. For some of them it is still possible to be a political conservative and a theological liberal (or vice-versa), but others among them are looking for the best of all possible worlds, where conservative politics and conservative religion merge in a seamless, though confused, whole. When I read the political reports, a paraphrase of Professor Higgins's conclusion about the French (in My Fair Lady) comes to mind as a description of these conservatives: " They don't care about what they do actually, as long as they Say it Right."
So let me speak on behalf of that dozen or so of us who still see conservatism as a point of view not driven by the content of issues. Maybe I can double our number with this column! Granted, we won't know what to call ourselves. If we call ourselves conservatives the ideologues (who go all the way back to 1964!) on either side will think we're either dumb or disingenuous.
There was a little history before 1964, however. I named this column as I did because it seems to express an American consensus that no serious politician will ever challenge. I acknowledge that consensus, though "under God" was not added until after I graduated from high school fifty-seven years ago and no longer said the Pledge regularly. That's enough time to think it over and consent to it. All nations are under God, like it or not.
We describe our nation this way and act accordingly. We are one nation. We do what we must as a nation. The founders knew it immediately, when they made defense a responsibility of the union. Their successors solidified it when new states were formed in federally owned (or stolen) land. My passport is American, not Nebraskan. There are political philosophers who believe that the Civil War should never have happened, but it did, and that's the point. The consequences of it and many lesser actions constitute our political and economic reality—what is, not what should have been.
My kind of conservative works with what is, as efficiently and economically as possible. It's not a matter of Left and Right (defined at convenience by the speaker), but of needs and resources. Governors may preach "states' rights" but they still work with the consensus when they need, as an example, to ask the President to declare a national emergency. That's what their people expect them to do.
In the present situation, through bad governance on local and state levels, public education is going broke. No excuses from anybody, okay? At the next election, throw out those responsible for the failure (obviously some more responsible than others) and elect people who can explain to you how mandated public responsibilities are fulfilled and funded after the campaign.
In the meantime, take money from taxpayers in other states, through the federal government, as the President has offered and as you would for hurricane or flood relief, to pay the teachers of your children. (Did I hear a scream? "We don't do that for children and public servants, Mr. President! We do it for major banks and big employers in our state and district! You know that, Mr. President! What are you trying to pull?")
I turned off the scream. What I heard from the President, in this case, was an expression of what it means to be a nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.